LEXINGTON, Ky. — PJ Washington set career highs with 25 points and seven rebounds, Tyler Herro added 18 points and No. 10 Kentucky rolled over North Dakota 96-58 on Wednesday night.
The Wildcats (2-1) finally got the dominant effort they sought after scraping by Southern Illinois last week. They had to survive an initial back-and-forth with the Fighting Hawks (2-1), who led 13-12 before Washington’s 3-pointer put Kentucky ahead to stay. The Wildcats outscored North Dakota 27-7 over 9:46 for a 39-20 cushion and led by 38 in the closing minutes.
Washington, who managed just 11 points through two games, scored his season high by halftime. He finished 9 of 13 from the field with four 3-pointers to surpass his previous of best 22 points against Mississippi State in January.
Herro shot 7 of 12 to top his 14-point debut against Duke, and Kentucky shot 53 percent in the opening game of the Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase.
Conner Avants had 14 points and Filip Rebraca 13 for North Dakota, which shot 40 percent in its first meeting against the Wildcats.
Kentucky’s long-overdue convincing performance should seal another week in the Top 10.
North Dakota: Three-point shooting helped the Fighting Hawks make things interesting early against the Wildcats. That strong start lasted just six minutes as they were thoroughly overwhelmed in their first meeting against a Southeastern Conference school.
Kentucky: The Wildcats looked much better than in Friday’s shaky escape of Southern Illinois. Besides consistently shooting a season best from the field, they controlled the paint (46-18) and owned the glass 45-15. Washington certainly needed an offensive boost and delivered inside and outside the arc.
North Dakota hosts Minnesota Morris on Saturday in the first of consecutive home games.
Kentucky hosts VMI on Sunday in the second game of the Hardwood Showcase that also features Winthrop and Tennessee State.